Merlin Bird Graphic

Merlin Bird ID

Try our free app foriOS | AndroidWeb version coming soon!
Recently Viewed Species

    Brown Pelican

    Silhouette PelicansPelicans

    Brown Pelican

    Pelecanus occidentalis
    • ORDER: Pelecaniformes
    • FAMILY: Pelecanidae
    Basic Description

    The Brown Pelican is a comically elegant bird with an oversized bill, sinuous neck, and big, dark body. Squadrons glide above the surf along southern and western coasts, rising and falling in a graceful echo of the waves. They feed by plunge-diving from high up, using the force of impact to stun small fish before scooping them up. They are fairly common today—an excellent example of a species’ recovery from pesticide pollution that once placed them at the brink of extinction.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Brown PelicanRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    To find Brown Pelicans, head to the southern coasts of the US (Atlantic, Gulf, or Pacific) and look for huge birds gliding low over the water—check nearby gulls and cormorants as a size reference. These birds plunge into the water to feed. The huge splashes they make can, from out of the corner of your eye, look like a whale’s spout. If you see a splash, look for the bird on the water’s surface as it drains water from its throat pouch, or scan for other pelicans circling around to dive in the same spot. If you can’t find pelicans over the water, head to a jetty, mudflat, or estuary to look for groups of them resting.

    Other Names
    • Pelícano Café (Spanish)
    • Pélican brun (French)
    • Cool Facts